November 8, 2003
LANETT, Ala. - Mark Svendsen of Doraville, Ga., caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces this weekend to lead the Chevy Trucks Wild Card field on West Point Lake and earn a ticket to the 2004 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American. The All-American, scheduled for April 14-17 on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Ark., features a championship field of 42 boaters and 42 co-anglers and will award the winning boater $100,000 cash.
BFL competitors who finished in the top 30 in year-end points standings within their BFL division advanced to regional competition for a shot at one of six All-American slots per regional. Anglers who fished all five regular-season tournaments within their BFL division but did not advance to regional competition were eligible to compete in the Wild Card, which will also send six competitors to the All-American. Three hundred and forty-two boaters fished the Wild Card for an All-American slot, along with 307 co-anglers.
Svendsen caught his Wild Card-winning bass on a 1/4-ounce buzzbait and Zoom plastics off the flats in the backs of creeks. He caught five bass Friday that weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces to finish fifth and followed that up Saturday with another five bass weighing 9 pounds, 8 ounces to earn his first All-American berth. Svendsen, who ranked 65th in 2003 Savannah River Division points standings, also earned a $1,000 bonus from Garmin for using a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/sounder during the event.
Others headed to the All-American from the Boater Division are Kim Carver of Milledgeville, Ga. (nine bass, 18 pounds, 2 ounces); Ronnie Webb of Dewy Rose, Ga. (seven bass, 17 pounds, 6 ounces); Robert Burdekin of Fayetteville, Ga. (10 bass, 15 pounds, 10 ounces); Joel Barber of Brandon, Miss. (10 bass, 15 pounds); and Sammy Creech of Kenly, N.C. (seven bass, 14 pounds, 14 ounces). Barber also earned a $500 bonus from Ranger Boats as the highest-finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program.
Co-angler Wendell Thompson of California, Md., caught a two-day total of nine bass weighing 10 pounds, 2 ounces to win the Wild Card and advance to the All-American from the Co-angler Division. Thompson, a Shenandoah Division angler, caught four bass on day one weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces and caught a limit of five on day two weighing 6 pounds, 3 ounces to lead the co-angler field. He caught his winning bass on a finesse worm in brush piles.
Rounding out the top six co-anglers are Vic Riveras of Norfolk, Va. (seven bass, 10 pounds, 2 ounces); Todd Keneipp of Evansville, Ind. (six bass, 10 pounds, 1 ounce); Dustan Holmes of Social Circle, Ga. (six bass, 9 pounds, 15 ounces); Kevin Edwards of Decatur (six bass, 9 pounds, 14 ounces); and Rick Hensley of Rockmart, Ga. (six bass, 9 pounds, 9 ounces).
Nationwide, the BFL is divided into 24 divisions - each featuring four one-day qualifying tournaments and a two-day Super Tournament. Under the BFL's boater and co-angler format, boaters supply the boats, fish from the front deck and control boat movement throughout the competition. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and are competing against other co-anglers. Two hundred points are awarded to tournament winners, 199 points are presented for second, and so on except for the Super Tournament, where the winners earn 300 points, 299 points are given for second place, and so on. These points determine angler standings.
As the nation's leading provider of affordable, close-to-home weekend tournaments, the BFL is widely credited with opening competitive bass fishing to the masses. It also serves as a steppingstone for anglers who wish to advance to the EverStart Series and ultimately the Wal-Mart FLW Tour - bass fishing's most lucrative tournament series. Each year the top 30 boaters and co-anglers from each BFL division are eligible to advance to the EverStart Series, and the All-American champions are eligible for Wal-Mart FLW Tour competition. The top 15 pros and co-anglers from the Central, Eastern and Northern divisions of the EverStart Series (top 10 from the Western Division) are eligible to advance to the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. Former BFL anglers who have become fishing superstars on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour include Kellogg's pro Clark Wendlandt, Chevy pro Tommy Biffle and four-time FLW Tour champion David Fritts.